Bon voyage! My Elvis Presley cruise from New Orleans

Lifelong Elvis Presley fan Patsy R. Brumfield is hopping on the Norwegian Dawn for an Elvis-themed cruise. The cruise, which departs from New Orleans, is April 17-24.

Check out the schedule and follow along for all her hijinks at sea. Patsy departs Sunday and will start updating once she’s settled into her cabin.

Day 1: Seeking Elvis

Day 2: We found Elvis

Day 3: Visiting a butterfly sanctuary in Roatan

Day 4: Climbing to the top of the Temple of the Masks

The Norwegian Dawn is home to the "Celebrating the King Cruise" from April 17-24. (Image via Norwegian Cruise Lines)

The Norwegian Dawn is home to the “Celebrating the King Cruise” from April 17-24. (Image via Norwegian Cruise Lines)

DAY 1: Seeking Elvis and my sea legs …

By Patsy R. Brumfield

Dramamine – I know it’s here. My daughter bought it for me in New Orleans.

My Elvis Cruise is under way officially, having left the Crescent City in late afternoon Sunday. The Big Muddy is quite a lengthy ride to the Gulf of Mexico. I hadn’t known that before yesterday, and the early part of today.

The river was high and swelling its mighty banks all the way to, well, I’m not sure. Does it really matter?

We’re aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship Dawn, headed south to exotic lands of Mexico and Honduras, then we’ll turn around and return, of course.

This crazy trip is the birthday-gift brainchild of my Tupelo friend Pamela, of course. Elvis and Tupelo, you know. The Birthplace. Where it all started.

We’re accompanied by a friend of Pamela, plus her friend’s friend and three friends of the friend’s friend. Chiefly, they shall remain nameless – to protect the innocent or maybe not so innocent.

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

I knew things were different half-way into the night. My bed was moving. Throbbing. Curious, I arose from sleep to discover a somewhat raging sea and a feeling that someone in charge was fighting a mighty wind.

By mid-day, the wind was slightly diminished. Slightly. But it’s taking some getting used to, this rocking. I know that Dramamine is here somewhere. Fortunately, I am just slightly queezy. A young woman in the spa waiting room was nearly prostrate, insisting it must have been those bites of green apple.

Sure. That’s what Snow Whte said before she went to sleep for extra innings.

Last night, we had a lovely dinner after cocktails in one of the ship’s many dens of drink. We were cautious. Nobody wanted to wake up queazy. Imagine that state, on top of the rocking.

Afterward, in search of adventure, Pamela and I struck out for the front of the ship, just to get a sense of what that was all about. In a few words: Rock me like a hurricane. Actually, it was very exciting and hilarious – the wind was so strong that our hair stood straight up like we were hanging upside down. As we turned away to head back to sanity, it felt like we might be swooped up and tossed overboard. Well, maybe not.

We’ve been struggling to get this Internet thing connected, so I expect that if you’re reading this, it’s done.

For now, we’re checking the itinerary for Elvis opportunities, most which occur after 10 p.m. That is not good scheduling for a long-time AARP member. But, we’ll do our best to support the home team, especially tribute artists we’ve been before, like Bill Cherry, Brandon Bennett, Jay Dupuis and David Lee, who’ve wowed the crowds at annual Tupelo Elvis Festival competitions and the Ultimate Tribute Artist showdown in Memphis.

Since we’ll be “at sea” all today, Pamela and I had fabulous facials and acquired the obligatory “products” guaranteed to restore more youthful appearances. We’ll be lucky if we get back to 58, but hey, give a girl a try.

This afternoon, we ventured forth to a very entertaining Elvis Tribute Artist session with Brandon Bennett and Victor Trovino Jr., who subbed for an ailing Chris Connor. For the latter, we can empathize. The show was what you’d expect, which was good, with the familiar older female huggers and their progeny. Somebody even had an infant in tow. We look forward to more Elvis fun as the week progresses.

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

Ahead of us are gorgeous beaches, Mayan ruins and other exotic sights. We’ve signed up to make salsa and learn to Salsa. Pamela and her friend plan to “tube” through some underground caves. That is waaay more adventurous for the likes of me – I think federal court is exciting.

Check back for new updates. Looks like the Big Water has calmed down a bit since this morning, and it’s nap time aboard NCL’s Dawn.

Over and out for now.

DAY 2: Elvis, found with lots of decked-out admirers

By Patsy R. Brumfield

ROATAN ISLAND – Now, we’re talking Caribbean experience. Pulling into pretty little Roatan Island on Wednesday morning was just what the tour-guide ordered.

My friend Pamela, who gets the credit for this sea cruise, and I will disembark after a hearty breakfast and head out for the sights: an iguana sanctuary, jewelry shops, the usual T-shirt and liquor haunts, as well as to sample some gourmet coffee.


Pretty blue-green water in Cozumel

Roatan is billed as the 17th Century hideout for the likes of Henry Morgan, Blackbeard and other pirates. I can see why the crescent-shaped, hilly island would have appealed to them as respite from the wider ocean.

We started this trip in New Orleans and made our way across a windy, choppy Gulf of Mexico to Cozumel, where we found aggressive shop-owners with “deals” galore and some of the most ill-dressed seniors I’ve ever seen.

I survived a slight spell of seasickness and heard the ship infirmary was a highly populated destination, if you were among the unlucky.


salsas we made in Cozumel

The real fun of the day kept a Seinfeld episode in my mind – Salsa! Remember their avid discussions of America’s newly popular condiment? Anyway, we had great fun with a small crowd at “Salsa & Salsa” hosted at a quaint Cozumel shore-side hotel.

First order of business was to observe production of traditional margaritas and frozen strawberry margaritas. That got the crowd limbered up for the “work” ahead.

Our charming, young female hosts instructed use through a series of recipes for salsa: regular, green and guacamole. Watch out for the serrano peppers! Much dicing, pestle “mooshing” of ingredients in the Mexican mortar, which is too difficult to spell.

Then, we made pico de gallo and a “dessert” salsa with pineapples, shredded coconut and melons. Tasty. We got the recipes, too.

Our final assignment, amidst copious consumption (by some) of the tequila laden drinks, was to learn to dance the Salsa, which is a bit like The Cha Cha. We salsa-ed to left and right, to the back and front, then some kind of crossover move, which left us in back-foot position. It was much fun although my hips were shouting out for a rest at the end. Good work-out.

In the early evening, the Elvis program began in a cozy ship bar. Tupelo Elvis Tribute Artists winners Jay Dupuis and David Lee headlined, with help from others, including some nice looking young man named Dean Z, who could really get serious on the electric guitar.

As Pamela’s friend said about Dean: “He looks sexy in a church suit.” ‘Nuff said.

David Lee, the muscular jumpsuit-style Elvis, thanked two lady fans for presenting him with a highly flashy, mirrored belt just right for reflecting an audience’s admiration for his hip gyrations.

Wish you could have seen the audience. I felt downright young and well dressed.


Chef Patsy at salsa session in Cozumel

The woman in front us of proudly displayed a full-face Elvis tattoo on her left upper arm, complete with the signature scrawl.

We saw ladies dressed alike in pink sequined Elvis T-shirts. Whooping and hollering in approval of the Elvis Tribute Artists was the form of the night. Need I say the bar attendants were very very busy?

It was a sort of 60s-70s attire night, for some, and the white vinyl go-go boots were impressive. It made me think of basketball phenom Johnny Newman’s first wife, for the recollection of you Ole Miss fans of a certain age.

And did I report there actually are some men in the crowd?

Pamela and I plan to just goof around on Roatan today. Thursday, she and another friend will ride innertubes through some kind of crystal caves. On Friday we’re set to inspect Mayan ruins.

We don’t feel pressured to get over-scheduled, so it makes it all the more enjoyable.

Tuesday night, we met a really nice couple of Scotland, where I have travel plans later this summer. The fellow, David, is an attorney, “advocate” they call it and, of course, loves golf. His favorite court, Nairn, is one venue my traveling companion and I will visit for a round. He even promised to see if he can play along. That would be nice.

And so, you can see we’re having fun.

It’s pretty hot here in Roatan, so we’ll slather on the sun screen and Deet-laden insect spray.

We don’t want to bring anything home but impressive souvenirs.


Pulling into Roatan on Wednesday morning

Day 3: Roatan — Finding beauty in midst of tough living

By Patsy R. Brumfield

BELIZE CITY – Winding our north to Belize City, Roatan is a memory of vast extremes and friendly people with no Elvi in sight.

My friend Pamela and I refused to follow the beaten path, or at least the most-beaten path, upon arrival at this old-time pirates’ haven and weathered a phalanx of taxi-deals to find a compelling hawker named Margot, who hooked us up with her driver, Freddie Salina.

We took off in Cab 079 with plans to circle around the west end of the 30-mile-long island, see some beauty and acquire a few items of ridiculousness for our loved ones at home.


the harbor in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

Freddie was an excellent guide and eagerly responded to a flurry of questions from his journalist passengers. We learned an average working adult on Roatan makes about $6,000 a year and its chief employment is fishing and tourism. A ride around the island confirmed the presence of the very wealthy – likely expatriots – and the very poor, living next to dusty roads under scruffy vegetation canopies.

We saw beautiful vistas toward the harbor at the island’s highest point.


Mayan Eden, a butterfly sanctuary in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

We continue to see more stands for liquid vanilla than you can shake a stick at.

Thanks to Freddie, Pamela and I experienced something really fascinating: Mayan Eden, a monkey and butterfly home in a bit of an organized jungle thicket.

Jose, our site guide, was so well schooled about butterfly propagation and the plants they love. Within a large screened enclosure, we learned about the myriad of flowering plants they love to breed amongst, lay their eggs, crawl around as hungry caterpillars, attach in translucent gestation capsules and burst forth as multi-colored beauties ready to start the process all over again.


Jose, our guide in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

Colorful hummingbirds flitted about in the enclosure, taking advantage of luscious nector, which Jose shared with us. Sweet, really.

The butterflies were green, tiger-striped, electric blue, red-dotted and so much more. It was a true delight.


butterfly at Mayan Eden in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

Afterward, Freddie drove us to a gorgeous inlet on the island’s west end, aptly called West End, where we enjoyed a fish-taco lunch with local beer.

He dropped us off for a little last-minute shopping, which included cigars a fellow insisted were Fidel Castro’s favorite brand. He promised he was not lying. He looked honest.


cigars in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)


local beer in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

Back to the Norwegian Dawn, we spiffed up for an early evening Elvis Tribute Artist performance featuring the “young guys,” Dean Z (“The guy looks sexy in a church suit”), Victor Trevino Jr. and Brandon Bennett, all familiar to Tupelo ETA competition-goers. New Orleans’ Jay Dupuis, another Tupelo winner, joined them on the drums.

It was billed as a 50s-60s night and the passenger outfits were pretty amazing, including blond curly wigs, leather jackets, bobby socks and saddle shoes. Pamela and I declined to go that far although we got into the spirit with lots of good music.

These guys can really perform. I think if I were planning a party, Trevino would be the main show because he really rocks the performance. He showed his energy at one point when they broke off into the Stones’ “Satisfaction” and he did a great dancing, swaggering Mick Jagger impersonation.


Elvis tribute artists performing aboard the Norwegian Dawn (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

We wrapped up the evening in the ship’s swanky French restaurant. Our Scottish friends came along and we made more golf plans. We also met a birthday-celebrating Alabama couple – the man is an architect who’s done a lot of Oxford work, which currently includes a new grocery store and shopping opportunity along Highway 6 on the west side of town.

Thursday, we’ve parked off Belize City. Pamela and a friend are headed for a tubing excursion through crystal caves and I’m likely to just check out a few local sites.

I suspect I’ll see more T-shirts, Diamond International stores (which have been ubiquitous) and vast displays of liquid vanilla.

The blue-green waters of the harbor are worth hours of watching, too.


West End Beach in Roatan (photo by Patsy R. Brumfield)

Day 4: No Elvi at dramatic Kohunlich – The Maya had left the buildings

By Patsy R. Brumfield

COSTA MAYA – Yes, this 66.7-year-old woman climbed to the top of the Temple of the Masks at Kohunlich, Mexico. I was hell-bent on doing it because I knew my loved ones at home expected me to be all-in.

More about this soon.

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

As you know, my friend Pamela (and a few others) embarked on this Elvis Cruise from New Orleans last Sunday. Today is Friday. We’ve been having a splendid time on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Dawn with about 2,000 other cruisers. We’ll be home Sunday.

Thursday, we woke up in Belize City, coming north from Roatan Island. Some of my posse went inner-tubing into some allegedly beautiful crystal caves. I am not one of those type adventurers, so I did a little writing, made myself presentable and went into town via tender boat.

Mostly a shopping experience, my afternoon also included a nice local beer and more fish tacos. Suffice it to say it was fun just people watching.

The Elvises were over the top in an early evening performance – David Lee, Bill Cherry, Brandon Bennett, Jay Dupuis and Dean Z. Lots of folks danced to the rock ‘n’ roll and many others just sang along. More weird “period” custumes, which Pamela and I disdained because we cling to whatever shred of dignity remains at this stage of our lives.

As the day dawned Friday, we pulled into Costa Maya, which I now call MayaWorld. The water is absolutely beautiful, but the main attractions – Maya ruins – are some distance away.

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

Pamela was getting over her tubing experience, so I joined a few dozen strangers for the two-hour trip to Kohunlich, Mexico and a really stunning Maya complex of limestone buildings amidst stunning vegetation.

Even the bus ride was nice. I met a young woman from Nebraska who works as a nurse. She was cruising with her retired-military beau who resides in Pensacola Beach. Of course, I had to pass along the name of my DUI-specialist brother-in-law, just in case the guy needed serious legal aid one of these days.

Years ago, my sister Suzy and I aced a Kiddy Lit class at college, led by a really sweet woman named Dr. Coleman. She was most educated on children’s literature, but insisted on referring to ancient Greek architecture as “rurns,” which rhymes with “urns.”

Thus, I refer to the Maya architecture as the same, though only to my close friends.

Kohunlich was amazing and our guide, Leticia, was very charming and well informed about the culture’s history. We learned a lot and got quite a bit of exercise into the middle of a very hot day.

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

photo by Patsy R. Brumfield

We saw temples, residential structures, amazing carvings and the biggest palm trees I’ve ever come across. The ball field was well structured, with the reminder that Maya warriors played the game with a heavy rubber ball, and the winners were the guys sacrificed to their gods, not the losers. I have to think about that one.

As I mentioned in my opening, I climbed with the best of them. Darn if I would be the “weak sister” watching everybody else dragging themselves sky-ward.

The most interesting climb was up this awe-inspiring Temple of the Masks, which is the crowning touch of the place. It was one of those stone step climbs toward the enthroned king meant for humble, bowing subjects, who never looked him directly in the face as they climbed. Always bent in humility. The ascent back to terra firma was accomplished in the same manner, head down and moving backward.

It was a little scary but I made all the right moves to wind up in one piece.

The Elvi are performing very late tonight, so it’s unlikely I’ll stay awake that long. I’m sure the affectionate grannies in the pink satin jackets will fill the rows, with or without Pamela and me.

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